The move of the Juan F. Luis Memorial Hospital emergency room to the adjacent V.I. Cardiac Center is being facilitated by the fact that business at the center has declined and its staff interventional cardiologist, Dr. Kendall Griffith, may soon leave, the hospital’s board learned Thursday night.
Richard Evangelista, JFL’s acting chief executive officer, spent most of Thursday’s meeting updating the board on the collapsing plumbing system, a problem that began May1with malfunctioning restrooms in the Emergency Department. It was a review of his testimony before a special session of the V.I. Senate Wednesday.
The 25,000-square-foot Cardiac Center was completed in 2008 and boasts much newer plumbing, electrical infrastructure and equipment. However, the board was told, business at the center has declined and Griffith, formerly the CEO of the hospital, may leave soon.
“I expect official notice (of Griffith’s departure) any time,” said Dr. Raymond Cintron, JFL’s chief medical officer.
A temporary cardiologist has been filling in when Griffith is not available, Cintron said and the hospital may hire two more cardiologists to temporary positions.
The sewage problem began May 2 when sewage pipes backed up in the JFL Emergency Department. The cast iron pipes of the system have become degraded over time and are collapsing underneath the building.
For more than a week, portable toilets, pumping trucks and bypass remedies have allowed the department to remain open. But those were stopgap measures and it’s clear that repairs will take time. Despite lifting the “internal Code Yellow” Thursday night, the decision was made to transfer staff, equipment and patients to the adjacent cardiac care center, “hopefully within days,” said Erica Parsons, JFL public information officer.
Gov Kenneth Mapp called a special session of the Senate Wednesday seeking $3 million for the renovation. Sitting as the Committee of the Whole, the Senate heard testimony from Evangelista and other JFL management. While sympathetic, senators held the measure in committee until May 18, at the earliest.
Chief Financial Officer Tim Lessing told the board that insurance will not cover the hospital’s plumbing crisis because the malfunction is due to natural deterioration.
In the meantime, plans for moving emergency continue.
“The hospital team evaluated the transition of the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center and is currently in the process of implementing the required elements for the respective services which support ED as well as the standard requirements which are necessary to support safe patient care for the ED patients in the identified location,” Evangelista said.
The acting CEO also reported he notified the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid last Tuesday of the problems and plans frequent updates to the federal agency that controls reimbursement for patient services. JFL has been found deficient by CMS in recent years and is currently working under a plan of correction.
The board also learned that an emergency room physician, a psychiatrist, a director of security and several security guards have been hired.
Board Treasurer Theresa Frorup-Ali reported that the cafeteria has reopened to prepare meals for inpatients after being closed for several months due to plumbing problems. Food service is not available to the public, however.
She also reported that overtime is “still being abused,” and pointed out that in March $3.9 million was collected – of $5.8 million billed– and payroll was $3.8 million. In other words, 90 percent of collected funds are needed to pay staff.
“This hospital will continue to experience high expenditures due to high payroll,” Frorup-Ali said.
CFO Lessing also described two cyber attacks that caused the computer system to be down for three weeks and prevented bills from going out during that time.
In regards to the budget, Lessing said the hospital continues to exceed revenue, and the bottom line of $1.9 million is $1 million ahead of budget.